by Susan Trolllinger
As children move through the first level of Ark Encounter, they pass by rack upon rack of ceramic jars and burlap sacks. They peer between the vertical bars of large wooden cages; sometimes they see nothing, sometimes they see a realistic-yet-stationary animal figure that looks as though it was frozen in time by a taxidermist.
On level two, they encounter increasing numbers of placards about how Eden was perfect and how human culture in the days of Noah was despicable; how the notion of animal kinds means that a very manageable number of animals were needed on the Ark; the mechanics of water collection, waste removal, and ventilation on the Ark; how Noah might have been a carpenter, blacksmith, and farmer.
It’s a lot for children to take in. And depending on their age, reading ability (or their parents’ interest in reading to them), and attention spans, some take in more than others. But none of this appears specifically designed for children, with the possible exception of a small area that, a bit like The Secret Life of Pets (though without the production values, soundtrack, or humor) promises to show children what the animals do at night when Noah’s family is asleep.
Then they arrive at the Fairy Tale Ark. In contrast to the largely monochromatic interior of the Ark (lots of beige and brown given all the wood), the placards with lots of text talking in detail about the mechanics of life on the Ark, and the various images of hordes of decadent people perishing in the flood waters, the Fairy Tale Ark exhibit welcomes children with what appears to be the exterior of a shiny, fiberglass boat chock full of smiling, big-eyed, cartoon-styled animals who all look to be having a wonderful time bobbing along the floodwaters. A brightly colored rainbow and blue sky can be seen over their heads.
Not surprisingly, children get excited as they enter the Fairy Tale Ark exhibit because it so obviously looks like it is meant for them.
Even better, inside the exhibit is a wall-size glass case filled with about 80 copies of various Noah’s Ark children’s books. The big one in the center even appears to have a three-dimensional Noah’s Ark bursting forth from its pages. Children must think—wow, what a treasure trove of fun reading!
But no. All the books are locked up behind huge glass panels. They cannot be touched, and most can’t be read.
But there are what appear to be seven books that are positioned about waist high (for adults) in a line that runs the length of the glass case. Each of these “books” is open to a pair of pages that seek to show how, wittingly or unwittingly, those 80 children’s books in the case put forth a very dangerous message. These children’s books are dangerous because they distort God’s Word. They make the story of the Flood look like a cute fairy tale about a fun boat ride when the story in Genesis is a real historical account of “the righteous and holy God judging an exceedingly sinful world with a cataclysmic Flood.” Instead of trivializing “the Lord’s righteous and holy character,” the children’s books in the case should be treating the Ark and the Flood as “sobering reminders of divine judgment on a sin-filled world.”
And if visitors don’t take the time to read these pages, the sign on the wall just to the left of the book case makes things clear:
“If I can convince you that that the Flood was not real, then I can convince you that Heaven and Hell are not real.”
Wondering who the “I” is? The sign answers that question with a three-D red serpent that is coiled about the sign and whose head stretches out toward the visitor. Ah, there it is. The true message here.
You unsuspecting, uncritical parent. You might think these delightfully illustrated children’s books are harmless. But they’re not. They make God’s Word look like a preposterous fairy tale. Those books—they are the work of the devil.
Sobering, indeed. And weird, to say the least.
The exhibit presents itself visually as if it is for children—as if this is a space wherein children can just be children who play, think child thoughts, and have fun in the presence of smiling animals and books written for them.
But no. It is all a trick, an odd, cruel trick played not only on the children but also their parents, who now have to explain to their children that these beloved books – the books that drew their children into the exhibit – are actually the work of the devil.
And it doesn’t stop here. Children’s thoughts about a loving God whom they can trust need to be adjusted. What they need to know is that the Christian God is the kind of god who is so righteous and so holy that He had to kill every person and land creature that didn’t make it on the Ark. That’s just the kind of God He is.
For the earnest Christian parents who take this message to heart, what does this mean? When they get home from a day at Ark Encounter are they determined to get rid of these satanic books, determined – when bedtime comes – to tell their child the “truth”? Are they to follow that with “God loves you” and “sweet dreams”? Very odd, indeed.